PERSEVERANCE. Are you a “finisher”? How do you remain focused and not let criticism and obstacles shut you down?
After the devastating loss to Bobby Rush in his bid for Congress in 2000, Barack Obama could have given up his dream to break into national politics. The defeat weighed heavy on his ego, his finances and his marriage. One Chicago commentator reportedly asked on radio, “Is Obama dead?” hinting at the possible demise of his political career. Instead, Obama sensed he was destined for something bigger. He pressed on wiser and more prepared for his victorious U.S. Senate run in 2004. Now, as President Obama, the rest is living history and an example of the rewards of perseverance.
Our post-Internet boom, “American Idol” culture breeds a desire for instant gratification and prosperity. This can be a destructive mentality for a business owner, or anyone looking to create personal and professional sustainability. You can get into the trap of only looking at the end game and forgetting about preparation and the need for patience. You also run the risk of becoming envious of those who have reached a certain level of recognition – not realizing how many setbacks they had to endure before their success became widely known. Consider Walt Disney who was turned down 302 times before he got financing for Disneyland; or Babe Ruth who struck out 1330 times, but also hit 714 home runs. Colonel Sanders is an example that age doesn’t matter. He was turned down 1009 times trying to sell his “11 herbs and spices” to restaurants and, at age 65, became a franchise success with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Abraham Lincoln is another famous example. He had 30 years of apparent missteps. He failed in business twice, lost his run for Senate twice, had a nervous breakdown, was defeated in Congress and for his run for Vice President, and finally became President in 1860. His story illustrates that failure can be a stepping stone to success and diligence will eventually bear fruit.
It’s been said that an “overnight success” takes a good decade. I’ve seen this phenomenon in my own life. After leaving a successful corporate career in 1999, I’ve spent the last ten years focused on serving as a social entrepreneur. It was not easy and I had to make a lot of personal sacrifices. However, I feel that I’ve now built a good foundation based on passion and a sense of purpose. I saw the bigger picture and took consistent steps to move me closer to it. For example, I started writing “The Power of…” column in 2003. It was a regular column in a local paper and a feature of our new newsletter. I wrote it not to make money – simply to inspire and inform. It got me in the habit of writing on a deadline and became the canvas for developing the Power Living philosophy. Now, after writing over 70 columns, it has led to three books and is read by tens of thousands and, possibly soon, millions of people! I could have quit long ago. Instead, I persevered with faith in my long-term vision and a determination to reach more people.
Perseverance is a steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose. It is one of the most important keys to success. It can build character, make up for deficiencies in talent, and lead you to triumph. There have been many people with minimal skills and a poor plan who have succeeded because they stuck with it. They managed to hold on long after others had given up. If they fell, they picked themselves back up. If they faced adversity they looked for new alternatives. Instead of focusing on perceived disability they dedicated themselves to their passion. There are many inspiring stories of this type of perseverance. For example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was paralyzed from polio. Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Post-Impressionist artist, painted through his mental illness. Beethoven, one of the most acclaimed composers of all time, continued to write music even when he became completely deaf. Each of these people accomplished great things and realized that limitation is only in the mind. They pressed forward with discipline and resolve.
If things don’t seem to happen when and how you want them to, you may feel like moving on to something else – becoming a perpetual “starter” but not a “finisher.” You may be tempted to complain, make excuses or blame external circumstances or people. Instead, set out today to cultivate and share your unique gifts with the world. As long as you are determined and move forward, no matter how slow, you will get to your destination. Be Present at every step along the way. Learn from unplanned detours. Respect divine timing. There is a reason and a season for everything. Persevering in difficult times tests your faith and commitment, and forces you to be creative. It prepares you to receive your Highest Good. As Solomon explained in the Bible: “The race is not to the swift… or wealth to the brilliant.” If you feel like you’re about to quit, hold on a bit longer. The brightest light often comes right after the darkest night. Realize that the only true failure is not trying to pursue what is in your heart.
Use the following “fail-proof” parameters:
I am determined to succeed.
I refuse to lose. I gear my life toward victory and rise to every challenge. I conquer my fears by facing them head on. I do not let self-doubt paralyze me. I understand that character is built through adversity. If I fall, I get back up. I look at each obstacle as an opportunity to learn and to move me closer to my vision.
I am determined to succeed.
Listen to the Affirmation:
Copyright Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy. Power Living Column Vol. 18.09, originally published April 2004; revised March 2009. Teresa Kennedy has written over 70 “The Power of…” columns that are a part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series and available for syndication. Call 212-901-6913 for more information.
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